People at both sides of an opened teller window
Over 200 million migrant workers sent US$554 billion back to their families in remittance-reliant countries in 2019.
Photo:© IFAD

Recovery and resilience through digital and financial inclusion

The International Day of Family Remittances (IDFR) was adopted by the United Nations General Assembly and is observed on 16 June. The IDFR recognizes more than 200 million migrant workers, women and men, who send money home to over 800 million family members. This day further highlights the great resilience of migrant workers in the face of economic insecurities, natural and climate related disasters and a global pandemic. The IDFR is now globally recognized and is a key initiative in the Global Compact for Safe, Orderly and Regular Migration (Objective 20), which urges the reduction of transfer costs and greater financial inclusion through remittances.

Remittances, or “cross-border person-to-person payments of relatively small value,” serve as a vital lifeline to the developing world. Individual remittances may be of ‘relatively small value,’ but collectively these flows are three times greater than global official development assistance. Remittances underwrite many basic household needs and support skills formation and opportunities through education and entrepreneurship. These resources prove transformational for both households and local communities, enabling many families to achieve their ‘own SDGs.’

Remittance flows have increased five-fold over the past twenty years, serving in a counter-cyclical capacity during economic downturns in recipient countries. COVID-19 has been a formidable test for global remittances. However, early forecasts of sharp declines greatly underestimated the resilience in remittances flows. A May 2021 report by the World Bank reveals a drop in remittances of only 1.6 per cent in 2020, to US$ 540 billion from US$ 548 in 2019.

The resilience of these flows is not surprising. Remittances are the financial side of the social contract that binds migrants to their families back home. While these inflows total in the billions, the number that matters the most to families is the average remittance of US$200-US$300 a month.

Behavioural shifts among migrants and the diaspora over the past year have further bolstered the resilience of remittances. Changes include an increased use of savings to sustain remittances flows, greater utilization of formal sending channels and more migrants sending money home for the first time. Local currency depreciation in recipient countries and increased government support for formal migrants in host countries during the pandemic have also had an impact.

One of the greatest catalysts for formal remittances during 2020 was the accelerated adoption of digital technology by the migrant workers and their families. Both online and mobile digitalization have buoyed remittance flows during this challenging period. Mobile remittances alone increased 65 per cent during 2020 to US$ 12.7 billion (GSMA, 2021). This change was hastened by lockdowns and social distancing rules that spurred the move away from informal channels and the use of cash for senders and recipients. Digitalization is less costly than cash transfers and has reinforced the adoption of mobile money, thereby advancing the financial inclusion of migrants and their families.

The IDFR and the United Nations commend the determination and resilience of the human spirit as evidenced by migrant workers. Further, the UN calls for governments, the private sector, development organizations and the civil society to promote digital and financial solutions for remittances that foster greater social and economic resilience and inclusion.

For further information visit: familyRemittances.org and ifad.org/en/idfr.

How to get involved

Raise Awareness

  • Build your own social media package, draft a thematic newsletter for your network or organize an online event. Take part in the global discussion by using the hashtag #familyremittances
  • Think creatively on how you can bring this opportunity to the world’s attention. Use personal stories and compelling photos to illustrate the reality of the one billion people directly involved in remittances
  • Take advantage of the IDFR official graphics on this Trello board following the logo guidelines

Get involved through  social media channels and the International Day of Family Remittances homepage.

Looking forward, we must continue efforts to support and protect migrants, who — as the COVID-19 pandemic has made clear — play such an important role in keeping essential services and the economy at large running in many parts of the world.

António Guterres

Events

On 16 June, from 9:00 to 11:00 EST, the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD), along with the Permanent Missions of the Philippines and Guatemala to the United Nations, are hosting a virtual observance event for the International Day of Family Remittances: Recovery and Resilience through Digital and Financial Inclusion.

Please visit the event website and register to attend. For questions during the event, use the #familyremittances Twitter hashtag.

Hands counting cash with logs in the background.

Despite COVID-19, remittance flows remained resilient in 2020, registering a smaller decline than previously projected. Officially recorded remittance flows to low- and middle-income countries reached $540 billion in 2020, just 1.6 percent below the 2019 total of $548 billion, according to the latest Migration and Development Brief.

A crowd of people carrying luggage move in the same direction.

The pandemic is crippling economies across the globe but for many countries, the economic shock will be magnified by the loss of remittances—money sent home by migrant and guest workers employed in foreign countries. In this podcast, the IMF presents remittances as a lifeline for low-income and fragile states that when migrants lose their jobs those remittance flows stop. It's in everyone's interest for host countries to help support migrant workers through the pandemic.

illustration of people with clock, calendar, to-do list and decorations

International days and weeks are occasions to educate the public on issues of concern, to mobilize political will and resources to address global problems, and to celebrate and reinforce achievements of humanity. The existence of international days predates the establishment of the United Nations, but the UN has embraced them as a powerful advocacy tool. We also mark other UN observances.